While they liked some overall themes in President Obama’s call for more innovation, more cooperation and less spending, some members of Congress from Idaho and Washington wondered about the details.
“I thought he gave a very good speech,” Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, said. “Like all (state of the union) speeches, it was short on details.”
Idaho’s senior senator supports Obama’s call for tax reform, although “my idea of tax reform and his idea might end up being two different things.” Crapo said he would oppose any plan to raise taxes on the top income bracket, which Obama proposed, because he sees it as singling out successful small businesses. But he doubts such a plan can make it through this Congress.
“That debate occurred in December,” he said.
Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, thought the speech was reminiscent of some of Obama’s best oratory in the 2008 campaign, and particularly liked the observation that no one in the room would rather live anywhere besides America. But he agreed with Crapo that kind of tax increase has no chance in the current Congress: “I think he threw that in parenthetically, for his base.”
Although calling for a five-year freeze on domestic spending is a big step for a Democrat, Risch said, “it’s going to take more than that” to cut the deficit and bring down the debt.
A supporter of legislation to ban directed spending known as earmarks, he was glad to hear Obama say he’d veto any legislation with earmarks. But he wondered if that meant the president himself would not seek earmarks.
“We have heard that before,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., said of the promise to veto bills with earmarks.
She thought Obama did a good job of “inspiring Americans to be their best,” and called the pledge to freeze domestic spending a step in the right direction. “But we certainly have to do more.”
Republicans aren’t ready to give up their efforts to repeal last year’s health care reforms, McMorris Rodgers said.
“It passed the House. It’s too early to tell what will happen in the Senate,” she said. “I’m glad he recognized there are parts of the bill that need to be changed. I agree there are parts we need to keep.”
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said in a prepared statement that she wasn’t going to stop fighting for “local investments” that keep Washington’s economy growing and put people back to work.
“We can’t stop making the investments we need to continue innovating and continue competing,” said Murray, although she didn’t use the term earmark. While the nation needs to tackle the deficit and cut spending, it can’t do that on the backs of students, veterans and future growth, she added.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said in a prepared statement she appreciated the emphasis on clean energy. “Like President Obama, I am tired of America inventing many of the new clean energy technologies … only to see other countries reap the rewards and jobs that come from manufacturing these products.”